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"For 2019, I estimate that we could have eliminated as many as 10 recurrent regular or special holidays that fall on a weekday."


In a weekend opinion piece on yellow online outlet Rappler, the unlamented outgoing Senator Trillanes opined as to how there were in fact so many positive takeaways from the electoral rout of the Otso sa Nitso that one might be forgiven for considering it a victory in disguise.

For starters, although nine of the Hugpong’s twelve candidates won, Trillanes crowed over the handful of administration candidates who lost. Bong Go “only” won 44 percent of the vote. Gary Alejano would have won with just a hundred million more pesos. Even if Bam Aquino only placed an unspectacular 14th , Trillanes claimed this already makes Bam “a base the opposition can build on for the political battles ahead.”

The senator reminds me of the losing basketball coach who whined that he would have won if the game hadn’t been five minutes too short. Not only does Trillanes see the half-empty glass as half-full; give him a three-fourths empty glass and he’ll brag that it’s one-fourth full. You’ve got to admire the do-or-die attitude of this recidivist mutineer.

Bottom line, how does Trillanes explain his victory-disguised-as-defeat? “Why do the masses still support Duterte and his allies?” he rhetorically asks his comrades. “The simple answer is, they don’t know what you know and they haven’t seen what you’ve seen. In other words, the Filipino masses…are just not as enlightened as you are.”

Wow. Great words of wisdom from the outgoing senator, who says he’s now considering a teaching job. We can only wish the best of luck to his unlucky future students.

* * *

As an observant Catholic, I was delighted by the recent declaration of December 8 as a special working holiday to honor the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. This doctrine is, to my knowledge, the only Church pronouncement, centuries ago, when Papal infallibility was invoked ex cathedra.

I’m happy that as a working holiday, the now-public feast will not incur a public cost in terms of lost productivity. But it also reminded me of all those other public holidays when, in fact, people do take time off from work and incur enormous costs to the economy and to productivity. Right now, the Philippines ranks third worldwide in number of non-working holidays.

Just how big is the cost of those holidays? Well, let’s start with the country’s annual GDP, which, say, in 2018 was worth $350 billion. If we assume that everybody takes two weeks vacation a year, that GDP is generated by fifty weeks of work-time, inclusive of all those public holidays. This means that, per week, we generate $7 billion of GDP, or P350 billion. Assuming a five-day work week, that’s $1.4 billion, or P70 billion, per day.

Now let’s look at the schedule of holidays. For 2019, I estimate that we could have eliminated as many as 10 recurrent regular or special holidays that fall on a weekday. These can be broken down as follows:

Cancel three holidays: People Power and Ninoy Aquino days, and the 2nd day of Eid’l Adha

The following 3 holidays are not based on specific historical dates. Thus we could move them to the nearest week end instead: Labor Day (in the US it’s celebrated in September, not May), National Heroes Day, and All Souls Day (but not All Saints).

Although these next three holidays are based on specific dates, I see no compelling reason why they couldn’t also be moved to the nearest weekend instead: Day of Valor (Fall of Bataan), Bonifacio Day (his birthday), and Rizal Day (his death).

Reduce Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve holidays to half a day only instead of one full day each.

Fully implemented, these 10 additional working days—equal to two full working weeks—could have added $14 billion, or P700 billion, to our GDP this year. In my book, a permanent bump of this size in our economy virtually guarantees us a credit upgrade to the coveted single-A rating, sooner rather than later.

But the benefits need not be enjoyed only by the bankers and businessmen. Effective last year, the lowest minimum wage in our country is P500 per day, received by some 2 million minimum wage earners. This could immediately be doubled to P1,000 per day at an additional annual cost of P250 billion, or less than half of the additional P700 billion in GDP gained by giving up all those holidays. This doubles the minimum wage, pumps up aggregate demand, but without inflation.

By cutting those holidays, we would have reduced our non-working holidays in 2019 to only 11 or 12—the same as the average of 11 holidays worldwide. The issue here is how serious we are, really, about working hard and growing our economy. We need to work harder, but still no harder than the rest of the world.

* * *

In John’s running account of Jesus’ discourses during the Last Supper, today’s Gospel (John 16: 5-11) talks about the coming of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, the Advocate who will take His place in this world after Jesus leaves it.

What does the Advocate wish believers to understand? That refusal to believe in Jesus is sinful. That death simply opened Jesus’ way back to the Father. And that this resurrection of His condemns the earthly rule of Satan.

This Advocate is supernally powerful. In the first reading (Acts 16: 22-34), Paul and Barnabas are freed from prison in Philippi by a severe earthquake—one so severe that it also persuades their jailer to convert, with his family, to the new religion.

In today’s world, the Holy Spirit continues Jesus’ work of building the kingdom of God on earth by breathing His Divine love into the hearts of men.

* * *

We’d like to congratulate Manila Archbishop Luis Cardinal Tagle on his recent reelection in Rome to the presidency of Caritas Internationalis, the world’s biggest network of Catholic charities. He was first elected to the post in 2015, making him the first president from Asia.

God bless you on your good works, Your Eminence. You truly do us proud. 


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